Amy Wu, founder of From Farms to Incubators, advocates for women applying their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) expertise towards solving agricultural challenges. Her forthcoming book, also called From Farms to Incubators, is comprised of profiles of women who are responsible for inventions already revolutionizing the way the world farms.
“Ag-tech is an area where different technologies are being created to address the challenges that farmers have been facing for a while now… everything from labor, water, and land shortages to the loss of farmable soil,” Wu tells Food Tank on a recent episode of Food Tank Live. She explains that these obstacles are exacerbated by the climate crisis and public health emergencies.
In recognition of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Food Tank is celebrating women like Wu who are driving innovation in the agriculture sector. These women are recognized for their technological contributions and leadership to ensure that younger generations will follow in their footsteps to support a healthy future for communities worldwide.
Growing up in Kenya, Peris Bosire and Rita Kimani saw the challenges their agricultural producers in their communities experienced, but were unable to solve due to a lack of capital – a struggle familiar to 50 million smallholder farmers in Africa. The duo later applied their university education in computer science to create FarmDrive. The platform provides financial institutions the knowledge to accurately develop loans for farmers. The digital interface, accessible via mobile phone, is a space where growers can connect with these lenders, apply for loans, get approved, make payments, and monitor their credit score. With increased access to capital, smallholder farmers can purchase inputs that will heighten yields – alleviating hunger and poverty across Africa.
As Founder of HerdDogg, Melissa Brandão implements a unique digital platform for farmers to monitor their beef, bison, dairy, and sheep herds. Using high-tech ear tags to track the well-being of the animals, precise care is administered and the products are traced with total transparency. The digital interface includes a dashboard for data insights and alerts, a marketplace, and an auditing system to calculate projected value outcomes.
The Cook’s Nook is the brainchild of Joi Chevalier who melded her passion for the culinary arts with her professional expertise in technological product management and marketing. The result is a multifaceted incubator for startups, entrepreneurs, corporations, organizations, school districts, food professionals, and the greater Austin, Texas community looking to share knowledge and leverage technology. Chevalier is also an advocate for women and African Americans at the intersection of tech and food.
Neth Daño’s background in agriculture, biosafety, and climate change informs her daily work with ETC Group. An international organization, ETC Group monitors the ecological and socioeconomic impacts of new technologies that could potentially harm the world’s vulnerable populations and fragile ecosystems. Their work looks closely at environmental erosion, the development of agricultural technologies, and global governance of corporations and technology trade. Examples of agriculture technologies monitored for responsible implementation include geoengineering, synthetic biology, and genomics.
Recognizing the increasing global wealth gap, Jaishree Deshpande established the Deshpande Foundation to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation aimed at solving the problems of the 5 billion people living in poverty. Their initiative is currently focused on soil analysis, water management, hydroponics, and sustainable cropping. The Deshpande Foundation’s goal is to benefit one million farmers in India by 2025 through scaling technology accessibility and expanding their partnership network.
Christine Gould founded Thought For Food with a vision to inspire young people to become involved with developing solutions for a sustainable agriculture revolution. The annual TFF Challenge gives Gen Z an opportunity to receive support on their innovative startup ideas in the food and agriculture sectors. With ambassadors and an array of programs around the globe, Thought For Food has a wide reach in promoting the use of technological advancement for the betterment of the global food system.
Danielle Gould created Alpha Food Labs with a mission to develop and promote innovative food and beverage companies aimed towards sustainability and nutrition. She is also the founder of Food + Tech Connect, a knowledge sharing network intended to provide the latest news in food and technology, investment opportunities, and innovation trends. These platforms and resources encourage the food sector to creatively network with one another and achieve ambitious goals for a more sustainable future.
Allison Kopf founded the Pennsylvania-based Cultivation Management Platform, Artemis, to provide growers with a digitized monitoring system. Specialized for indoor farmers, the software platform tracks when specific crops are ready to be harvested with an accuracy rate of over 90 percent. It also monitors nutrient levels and alerts for pest infiltration.
Dr. Caroline S. Makamto facilitates the adoption and scaling of technologies for partners of CORAF in the agriculture and nutrition sectors. Innovations range in focus from market access and livestock production to climate change adaptation and agri-inputs. Centering food security, CORAF also works to ensure that these technologies reach those most vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition.
Claudia Mardones manages Liventus, a Chilean-based company which has developed packaging equipped with a controlled atmosphere for fruit and vegetable exports. This technology optimizes the carbon dioxide and oxygen ratio within each container while macro-perforated pallet bags increase the relative humidity of shipments. By helping to avoid dehydration and fungi growth while produce is en route, the packaging helps reduce food waste in global supply chains.
ApisProtect is an Ireland-based organization producing beehive monitoring technology for commercial beekeepers. Dr. Fiona Edwards Murphy applied her doctoral research on sensors and networking in bee hives to found the company, which helps farmers monitor their hives, encouraging healthier colonies with larger growth.
Julia Niiro founded MilkRun with a vision for a more streamlined and localized supply chain. Following the milkman model, shoppers can build their weekly grocery cart online, producers will drop-off their supply at a local micro-hub, and orders are delivered straight to the buyer’s home. The online marketplace provides small farmers with an average return of 70 percent the purchase price, compared to a 8 percent return when selling via grocery stores. Today, hundreds of farmers are directly connected to thousands of consumers in Portland and Seattle.
Growing up in a family that worked in the agriculture sector, Ponglada Paniangwet witnessed the challenges and successes of the industry first-hand. This inspired her to build Freshket, a startup company which connects supply chain actors through an e-commerce platform. Data analysis and precision ordering allows farmers to predict supply and demand of certain crops, while consumers benefit from reasonable pricing and accessible local produce.
Aleph Farms produces slaughterhouse-free steak using cells from cows to bring high quality meat to the table without harm to animals and the environment. As the Head of Sustainability, Lee Recht is responsible for implementing sustainable resource use, climate neutrality, and food resiliency. Her goal is for Aleph Farms to achieve net-zero carbon emissions in its manufacturing facilities by 2025, and in its entire supply chain by 2030.
Recognizing the underrepresentation of women –especially those from culturally and ethnically diverse backgrounds– in the technology and agriculture sectors, Amy Wu launched the multimedia platform From Farms to Incubators. Her organization shines a light on women innovators, while building a network of startups and investors. As more entrepreneurs break into the ag-tech sector, it is Wu’s vision that new generations of women leaders will have the resources they need to successfully solve the evolving challenges of the agriculture system.